Dismantling the Social Safety Net

One of the major complaints of right-wing politicians against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is its imposed mandates that individuals obtain health insurance and that larger businesses offer health insurance to employees.  The professed opposition is to the mandates, per se.  It ignores the mandates that both employers and workers pay taxes for Social Security coverage—old-age, disability, Medicare, and unemployment compensation.  Mandates are not new—nor is “government interference” in private choices about private insurance.

Opposition to the ACA mandates is really just a stalking horse for the eventual dismantling of the American social safety net. If the new mandates were to be dropped (unlikely, thank goodness), I would expect that their opponents would quickly move on to removing mandates for other programs that have been in effect for 70+ years.


This seems like a purely political post with no supporting facts.

Joe Carter

Exactly right, Tom. It's disappointing to read such partisan blather on Freakonomics. What makes this site interesting is that it usually avoids such political posturing and provides empirical support for the claims being made.


I don't see any sources for your claims. Are you sure you were finished writing this article? It wasn't very thought provoking or interesting...


So, MORE mandates are a GOOD thing??? I think not.


Let me get this right, 'we need more government spending because there's government spending?'. Got it, no thanks.


You grievously mis-understand the objection to the individual mandate advanced before the US Supreme Court and by most libertarians such as Randy Barnett, et. al.

There is no dispute that Congress can impose mandates on commerce. So people that choose to operate business in the United States must pay Social Security, fund unemployment, etc. The alternative is to go elsewhere and operate a business. That's fine.

But the individual mandate in the ACA is not tied in anyway to these choices. By simply existing, you must buy health insurance. It is the government compelling everyone to buy something by virtue of breathing. That's entirely new and unprecedented.

You probably happen to like this mandate - because you might favor the particular political position espoused by supporters of the ACA. But my guess is that you might not favor a mandate that everyone purchase a firearm... or everyone must purchase an American car. So you shouldn't be so callous and, frankly, uninformed on the opposition to the ACA mandate.



Why isn't "go elsewhere" to exist not a "fine" alternative? I suppose you have the option to not work or start a business more so than existing, but it's a pretty academic distinction for those without massive inheritances.

Health care seems pretty obviously part of commerce. (You can't legally ignore -- i.e. not spend money --on a dying uninsured person in an emergency room.)


Does acceptance of mandates A and B automatically conflict with opposition to mandate C? Is opposition to all those toll roads in Austin inconsistent with acceptance of requirements that your car be insured and have working headlights? I guess opposition to toll roads is just a stalking horse for dismantling the highway system and going back to dirt roads.

Next time run this stuff by somebody outside the faculty lounge before you post it.


I think the biggest problem with equating liability insurance to the mandate in the ACA is people do not see the difference between the two. When I buy a car, and I am mandated to buy liability insurance, I'm required to protect OTHERS from my potental irresponsible driving. I'm required to buy full coverage when the bank owns my car, because I'm protecting the bank from my irresponsible driving.

There is a difference between having to buy insurance to protect others from my driving, and being forced to buy insurance to protect myself..... from myself.


From a purely statistical standpoint, isn't work a more effective socioeconomic boost than the plethora of social assistance programs? So wouldn't dismantling (or at least drastically shrinking) such programs have a positive impact on the country, as a whole?


Careful, they will start calling you names if you use facts and logic.


It's already part of the GOP platform to voucherize Medicare and divert Social Security to private accounts.

Apparently a "mandate" to enter a business relationship with a health insurer is bad, but a "mandate" to entrust your retirement savings to the financial industry is not.


No, it's part of the GOP platform to permit taxpayers to divert their social security accounts to the financial industry if they wish to. Participants aren't required to do anything; it just gives them a choice.

Likewise, the GOP platform to "voucherize" Medicare permits people to receive "vouchers" to subsidize private insurance, or remain in the existing Medicare program. Again, participants are not required to do anything; they just get a choice. Do you have a problem with letting people decide for themselves?

A mandate to enter a business relationship with a health insurer is bad, as is a mandate to entrust your retirement savings to the financial industry. Letting people decide for themselves to do either is not.

Eric M. Jones

Yes, reality has a distinctly liberal slant.


"If the new mandates were to be dropped (unlikely, thank goodness), I would expect that their opponents would quickly move on to removing mandates for other programs that have been in effect for 70+ years."

This argument and, indeed, this entire post are precisely equivalent to assertions from the right, absent any evidence or argument, that Obamacare is just a stalking horse for full socialism, first in the healthcare sector as a prelude to a mass government takeover of the economy.

I expect Daniel would disagree with that sentiment when it is presented by those on the right and use it to bolster his view of them as "crazy extremists" and yet he is perfectly comfortable presenting assertions just as empty of supporting fact and just as full of opprobrium for those who disagree with his policy preferences.

Perhaps rather than hypothesize about the nefarious motives and secret plans of those who disagree with our policy preferences, we might be better served all around by trying to understand them as honest, good-faith efforts at promoting the common good. Doing that, of course, would require us to abandon simplistic, self-serving narratives of ourselves as practical, pragmatic people looking to do good and our opponents as raving, extremist ideologues dedicated to evil but then nothing comes without cost, right?


Brett H.

The article was complete blather. All feelings, no facts.

"It ignores the mandates that both employers and workers pay taxes for Social Security coverage..."

STOP THE PRESSES!!!! Opting out of 'mandates' has worked very well in the past.

Look up - from an economic point of view - Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda and how they opted out of Social Security. Until...congress didn't want competition...with the 1983 Social Security 'Reform' bill.